Exercise and Creativity: Can One Bout of Yoga Improve Convergent and Divergent Thinking?

Abstract

While creativity is a vastly debated topic, little research has been dedicated to determining whether exercise can boost cognitive factors associated with creativity, such as divergent thinking. Yoga, as a form of exercise, comprises physical activity and open-monitoring meditation, which may increase divergent thinking. We compared performance on a test of divergent thinking in healthy adults, the Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults (ATTA), and one test of convergent thinking and field independence, the Group Embedded Figures Test (GEFT), before and after one session of ashtanga yoga, and one session of aerobic exercise. Divergent thinking was not affected by either intervention overall; however, fluency of novel ideas generated was reduced post-intervention in both groups. Practice effects were registered for the convergent thinking task, and those in the yoga group performed better at this task both at baseline and following yoga, although yoga did not lead to a greater change from baseline performance. The current findings do not suggest that one bout of yoga is associated with an immediate cognitive benefit. However, further research is required onto whether long-term yoga practice may enhance divergent thinking.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to acknowledge Amy Jordan and Maeve McLoughlin for assistance with data collection, as well as the gyms that hosted the exercise groups.

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Correspondence to Andrew P. Allen.

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Donnegan, K.F., Setti, A. & Allen, A.P. Exercise and Creativity: Can One Bout of Yoga Improve Convergent and Divergent Thinking?. J Cogn Enhanc 2, 193–199 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41465-018-0082-3

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Keywords

  • Creativity
  • Divergent thinking
  • Exercise
  • Yoga